03 Nov 2016 Parshas Noach: Rays of Light and Hope
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Noach, we meet fascinating, passive-to-a-fault, righteous-in-his-times, simple-with-G-d, stunningly-quiet, industrious Noach. Noach was a simple man, yet compared to the people of his times, the Dor Ha’Mabul (generation of the Deluge) – who were steeped in idolatry, immorality, and robbery, he was a saint.
Though the whole world was to be washed away, Noach, Na’ama, their three sons and three daughters-in-law would be saved as they spent a year floating in a custom built Ark, sailing on high waters, taking care of scores of animals and beasts.
When the flood waters finally subsided, and it was safe for Noach to leave the Ark – and once again, Noach did as G-d commanded him to do, and dutifully left the Ark according to the Divine command – Noach comes face to face with a world destroyed. Neighbors, towns, villages, huts, homes, farms, fields, man, beast, animals… It has all been washed away.
It is up to Noach and Na’ama, Shem, Cham, Yafes and their wives, to rebuild a destroyed world.
As a promise that He would never again destroy the entire world with flood waters, Hashem shows Noach a sign: אֶת-קַשְׁתִּי, נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן; וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית, בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ – I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth; וְהָיָה, בְּעַנְנִי עָנָן עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וְנִרְאֲתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת, בֶּעָנָן – And it shall be that when I cloud the earth with a cloud, and the bow will be seen in the cloud, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living being among all flesh, and the water shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh (Bereishis 9:13-15).
What is the significance of the rainbow-post-flood as a sign of G-d’s covenant?
Rav Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “Although the Torah describes Noach as righteous, G-d did not establish a covenant with him and his descendants as he later did with Avraham. Noach’s shortcoming was that he did not pray for his contemporaries destined to die in the flood, since he could not perceive the potential for good within them. Noach did not see the potential within man. Noach’s behavior contrasts with Avraham’s, who interceded on behalf of Sodom. After the flood, Noach was shown the rainbow within the cloud to demonstrate that even though it may appear that certain corrupt souls may have no potential for good, this is untrue. G-d revealed the rainbow to Noach as an object lesson; within every dark cloud there is a possibility of seeing a rainbow full of color.”
Noach was a good man, but he was unable to see the potential in every human being. Even a sinner can repent and return; even a dark situation can be made light; even tragedy can lead to redemption and rebuilding. Noach did not understand this and so, though he was righteous in his times, he was not the one to establish the Umah Yisraelis (Jewish nation).
We must be a people who strive to always see the good, the light, the hope, the beauty of the proverbial rainbow – in ourselves, in those around us, in the world at large (though, admittedly, at times this is difficult), and ultimately, in the hand of G-d and the blessings He bestows upon us.
King David asks: מִי-הָאִישׁ, הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים; אֹהֵב יָמִים – Who is the man who desires life, who loves days? And he answers with life-changing advice: לִרְאוֹת טוֹב – It is he who strives to always see the good.
When we are able to find the symbolic rainbow in every dark cloud, we will always be able to grow from there.
One Shabbos morning, when R’ Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook zt’l, was chief rabbi of Jaffa, a man stepped up to the bimah, interrupted the Torah reading, and declared, “At this very moment, Shmuel the cobbler is working in his shop, desecrating Shabbos!”
R’ Kook immediately approached the bimah, silenced the angry crowd, and said, “At the conclusion of prayers, we will all go to Shmuel’s shop, but only on condition that everyone follows my orders and acts as I do.”
At the end of davening, the entire congregation followed R’ Kook down the road into the main part of the city. When they reached the cobbler’s shop, R’ Kook approached Shmuel and said, “Good Shabbos, Reb Shmuel,” and continued on his way. Then, one by one, all the members of the Shul did the same.
After the procession, Shmuel locked his store and went directly to Rav Kook’s home. “I have eight children at home,” he explained, “and I simply do not earn enough money to support them. Therefore, I am forced to work on Shabbos.”
R’ Kook, in conjunction with the communal board, helped improve the cobbler’s financial situation; as a result, Shmuel never worked on Shabbos again.
When you see the rainbow, says Hashem, you shall know that in every single darkness, there is some light! Seek and you shall find. For who is the man who desires life and loves days? He who has the wisdom, sensitivity, faith and love to find the bow of light in the darkness.
May we all be so worthy to find the קֶּשֶׁת in every עָנָן that comes our way.
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,